While their men are away, the wives will play, or so it is in Noël Coward's comedy, which is like a stylish version of Desperate Housewives, circa 1920s London. It follows close friends Julia and Jane (Pamela J. Gray and Katie MacNichol), whose cosseted, middle-class existence has them pining for excitement and romance. When word suddenly arrives that Maurice Duclos (Elijah Alexander), a dashing Frenchman with whom both women years earlier had a sexual dalliance, is in town, the comedy kicks into high gear, as each tries to scheme her way back into Maurice's supposedly welcoming embrace. This is Coward at his urbane, witty best. Watching these “respectable” British ladies twirl away into girlish giddiness, then nose-dive into a martini-soaked, insult-lobbing spectacle of jealousy and flying fur, is hysterically funny. This production soars on superb performances, as the girls are a kick from start to finish; Mary- Pat Green does a terrific turn as Saunders, the maid. Art Manke's direction is flawless, and Tom Buderwitz has designed a strikingly fastidious drawing room as a backdrop. Prior to the performance reviewed, Pasadena Playhouse artistic director Sheldon Epps gave special tribute to Mike Stoller (of songwriting team Leiber and Stoller) and his wife Corky, whose generous gift of $1 million in 2010 helped return this venerable theater to financial solvency. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; through Feb. 24. (626) 356-7529, pasadenaplayhouse.org.

Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 4 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Starts: Jan. 29. Continues through Feb. 24, 2013

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